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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: 4 more thoughts and postgame notes from win over Vanderbilt

Kentucky goes to Nashville and gets a win in a tough environment

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky traveled to Nashville a day early to avoid getting caught in the snow and they get to leave with a well-deserved victory over Vanderbilt, 74-67.

Vanderbilt led 6-4 early and then Kentucky took over the lead and didn’t give it back until late in the second half. With just under 11 minutes left in the half Kentucky had built a 17-11 lead on the Commodores.

However, Vanderbilt would not go away and cut the lead back down to two before Kentucky went on a run to end the half capped off with a tip in by Sacha Killeya-Jones off a missed free throw to send the Cats into the break with a 36-27 advantage.

Vanderbilt came out of the break with a quick basket, but Kentucky went down and answered with Killeya-Jones getting the dunk off the assists by Shai. Vanderbilt never quit and kept battling, with 8 minutes left in the game the Commodores took the lead 56-55 but Kentucky quickly answered and never gave up the lead again.

Kentucky made a bad turnover up 4 and sent 89% free throw shooter Riley LaChance to the line for 3. Most people expect it to be cut to a one-point game, but he misses all three of them. The chances of that happening are .1% as Kentucky holds on for a win on the road in a tough environment.

Thoughts on the game

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the best player on the team

Shai has been on an absolute tear over the last few games and to me has established himself as the best player on the team. With the absence of Quade Green, Shai is forced to play big minutes and does an excellent job. He finished with 22 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists to lead the Cats in scoring and assists.

Wenyen Gabriel continues to impress

Wenyen needs to be the type of player that does the dirty work for this team and he does just that. Against Vanderbilt, he grabbed 9 rebounds, some of which were down the stretch when Kentucky needed them the most. He also helped on the scoring side putting up 7 points which is exactly what we need from him.

Kentucky gave up too any second chances

Kentucky had a clear height advantage on Vanderbilt and should have dominated the glass. However, the Cats only won the rebound battle 35-30 but more concerning they gave up 12 offensive rebounds. As big as we are there is no excuse for them giving up that many second chance opportunities and this needs to be improved going forward.

Kentucky played big down the stretch

Late in the game when Vanderbilt had the momentum Kentucky went on a big run and executed almost to perfection to close out the game. A big performer in the crucial minutes was Kevin Knox who finished with 17 points and 4 rebounds. Diallo also had a big three in the corner that pushed the lead to 8 and Kentucky closed out a game with the toughness that Cal has been asking them to show.

Here are the postgame notes, courtesy of UK Athletics:

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky is 14-3 overall and 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt is 6-11 overall, 1-4 in league play.
  • Kentucky leads the series 144-47 and has won three in a row vs. the Commodores.
  • UK leads the series 57-29 when the game is played in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Kentucky remains on the road for Tuesday’s tilt at South Carolina. The game is set to air live on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET.

In the First Half

  • Kentucky’s starting lineup featured Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, PJ Washington, Kevin Knox and Nick Richards for the fourth time this season and second game in a row. UK is 4-0 with this lineup.
  • Kentucky extended its streak of 1,030 consecutive games with a 3-pointer when Washington hit a long ball with 12:46 to go in the opening half.
  • UK’s defense forced Vanderbilt to go 1 for 10 to start the game and the Wildcats went on an 11-0 run over 5:43 for a 13-6 lead.
  • UK went on a 6-0 run over the last 2:32 of the first half, which included a Sacha Killeya-Jones layup with two seconds on the clock for a 36-27 halftime lead.
  • UK held Vanderbilt to 25.9-percent shooting from the field, the lowest of any opponent in any half this season.
  • UK is 10-1 this season when leading at halftime.

In the Second Half

  • Vanderbilt’s 56-55 lead at the 7:57 mark was its first since leading 6-4 in the first half.
  • Tied at 59, UK went on a 7-0 run for a 66-59 lead.
  • Up by five with 1:17 left to play, Diallo drilled a corner 3-pointer to put the Wildcats up by eight.
  • With UK leading 70-66, Riley LaChance was fouled on a 3-pointer with 30.6 left in the game and missed all three free throws.
  • Knox was fouled immediately after the rebound, sent to the line and made both free throws to give UK a six-point lead.

Team Notes

  • UK’s seven blocks are its most since swatting eight vs. Monmouth on Dec. 9. The Wildcats’ season high is 10 vs. Kansas.
  • Kentucky won the points in the paint 36-26. UK is 10-1 this season when scoring more points in the paint than the opponent.
  • UK shot 53.5 percent from the field, making 23 of 43.
  • UK is 7-0 this season when making at least 50 percent, 11-0 when making at least 46.4 percent.
  • Kentucky has shot 46.2 percent or better in four-consecutive games.
  • UK outrebounded Vanderbilt 35-30. The Wildcats are 13-0 this season when winning the battle of the boards.
  • Kentucky committed only 11 turnovers. UK is 7-0 this season when committing 12 or fewer miscues.
  • UK was 25 of 37 from the foul line.
  • Kentucky has shot 34 or more free throws in back-to-back games and has 22 or more makes in consecutive outings.
  • Kentucky limited Vanderbilt to just 38.2 (21 of 55) percent shooting from the floor. It was the lowest field-goal percentage for an SEC opponent this season against the Cats. It was the lowest percentage by a UK opponent since Louisville shot 34.8 percent.
  • The Commodores committed only seven turnovers, matching the lowest by a UK opponent this season. UIC also only turned the ball over seven times.

Player Notes

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Wildcats with a game-high 22 points, the third time in the last six games he’s scored 20 or more points.
  • He reached double figures for the fifth time in the last six games.
  • He had six assists tonight and has had at least four in seven straight games.
  • He has played 39 minutes in consecutive games.
  • Averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds over the last six games.
  • Kevin Knox had 17 points with 13 coming after halftime.
  • He made all seven free throws he attempted.
  • Scored nine of UK’s final 15 points, including the final four points from the free throw line.
  • PJ Washington had 10 points and eight rebounds.
  • Scored in double figures in each of the last four games and five of the last six.
  • The eight rebounds were the most since he had eight in consecutive games against ETSU and Troy
  • Hamidou Diallo added 10 points, including a game-sealing 3-pointer with just over a minute to play.
  • It is the 12th time he has reached double figures in scoring this season
  • Also added a career-high two blocked shots; he came into the game with two blocks for his career.
  • Wenyen Gabriel pitched in with seven points and a game-high nine rebounds.
  • Quade Green and Tai Wynyard missed the game because of injury.

Coach John Calipari

  • Calipari has a 708-196 all-time on-court record.
  • Calipari is now 263-56 at Kentucky.
  • Calipari is 14-4 vs. Vanderbilt in his career.